Gunmen armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles surrounded a church in central Nigeria and opened fire during a Monday night worship service. According to the Associated Press, the attackers killed 19 worshippers at Deeper Life Bible Church in the town of Otite in Kogi state, located 155 miles southwest of Nigeria’s capital Abuja.
Another report from Africa puts the death total at 16 and the number of seriously wounded at nine. The church’s pastor was among those killed.
According to the Associated Press, no arrests had been made as of Tuesday morning and no group had claimed responsibility for the massacre. However, the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram has been responsible for numerous churches this year and has vowed to make Nigeria an all-Islamic country, driving out all Christians. An Associated Press count puts the number killed by the Boko Haram at 660 this year. That number includes many Christians, as well as moderate Muslims and police.
"The increasingly intentional activity of Boko Haram has taken on the characteristics of a real war,” said Open Doors USA President Dr. Carl Moeller. “These are not random attacks as they're often characterized in the media. They are intentional, and they're designed with one purpose in mind; the elimination of Christianity. I call it ‘religicide’ or the intentional and systemic effort to eliminate a religious belief and its followers from a country or region.”
Open Doors USA is among a group of religious leaders and human rights advocates who sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton 10 days ago expressing their deep concern regarding the continuing religiously-motivated violence in Nigeria. The letter calls on the State Department to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization as well as to work with the Nigerian government to provide improved security for religious minorities.
The State Department’s 2011 International Religious Freedom Report released last week stated: “In Nigeria, attacks by elements of the violent extremist sect Boko Haram claimed the lives of both Christians and Muslims. The government did not effectively quell rising hostility or investigate and prosecute those responsible for violence.”
Nigeria is ranked No. 13 on the 2012 Open Doors World Watch List of 50 countries which are the worst persecutors of Christians. According to the World Watch List, Nigeria had at least 300 confirmed martyrs in 2011, although the actual number could be closer to 1,000.
Last month our Open Doors team delivered your messages sent from the prayer alert titled “Nigeria: ‘This is Becoming Genocide’” dated July 12, 2012. These messages were a great encouragement to both Christians in Nigeria and to the Open Doors team working in Nigeria.
Please consider sending a message today and let them know that you are praying for them. (Add your message below).
Father God, our heart breaks when we hear of more violence in Nigeria. On our knees we humbly petition You, asking for an end to the chaos and trauma that has ravaged the Christian community there. Father, comfort those who have lost loved ones, provide for those who are in need, and Father remove the fear that Your flock is facing; so that, though their testimony, evident in the lives of believers, many will come to know You. In Christ Name we pray, Amen.